'Weird Science,' in 1985, Hinted At Technology To Come; HBO's 'Silicon Valley' Tells It Like It Is

We begin today's column with a TV Blog programming alert: Tonight at 9 p.m. ET BBC America will telecast “Weird Science,” a 1985 comedy written and directed by Eighties youth-master John Hughes about two gangly high school nerds equally obsessed with technology and girls. It’s certainly not one of Hughes’ best -- in fact, most of it is just plain silly, if not stupid -- but in its own way it captures the mindset at the time of the geeks who would eventually inherit the earth and turn everyone on to their way of thinking and doing things. Well -- most things, anyway.

In the story, teens Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) actually harness the power of their early Eighties technology, such as it is -- plus the forces of nature and other mumbo-jumbo -- to create a gently flirtatious, absolutely gorgeous and totally devoted “older” woman (played by Kelly LeBrock). The boys are also hackers, and they tap into the government’s mighty computer system to further fuel their experiment. The now very prehistoric home computer they utilize is a Memotech MTX model, something I knew nothing about when I saw this movie in the theater. For me, the reality of having a computer in my home was still a decade away.



Anyhow, almost thirty years later computers and technology dominate most of our lives most of the time, making a movie like “Weird Science” seem quaint rather than futuristic. It’s silly today in a whole new way, but I’m sure it still captures the sheer joy people experienced when they acquired and actually began to understand new technology way back in the Eighties. Given the current state of technology and advances in artificial intelligence, we probably aren’t very far away from the mass production of companion constructs in human-like forms. As the decades fly by at an ever-accelerating pace, is it possible that “Weird Science” will be looked back upon as a prescient movie?

Interestingly, “Weird Science” will be followed by a repeat of the latest episode of BBC America’s “Orphan Black,” another franchise about the creation of humans (in this case multiple women) via technology and science rather than the standard method. Here, again, is a work of creative fiction that could prove all too real in a relatively short time to come. (By the way, “Orphan Black” in its second season remains as fresh and original and entertaining as it was last year and, in multiple and ever-changing roles, series lead Tatiana Maslany continues to deliver one of the most astonishing performances of this or any other season. Voting members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences truly embarrassed themselves last year by failing to nominate Maslany for an Emmy. Here’s hoping they don’t suffer the same outlandish lapse in judgment this time around.)

I would never refer to HBO’s delightful new series “Silicon Valley” as a companion piece to “Weird Science,” but following on the subject of geeks inheriting the earth, this latest comedy from the uncommonly insightful Mike Judge has been the happiest surprise so far of this still-young year. The story of five young men who are feverishly pursuing fame, fortune and a sense of personal awesomeness in the technology business, where even the silliest sounding idea can make millions for the kid who thunk it up, “Valley” is HBO’s best comedy since “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and one of the smartest comedies on all of television. (It is also a likely Emmy nominee this year).

Its short first season comes to an end Sunday with our hero, the sweetly neurotic Richard Hendricks (played to comic perfection by Thomas Middleditch), presenting his startup project at TechCrunch Disrupt. Known as PiedPiper, it is “a multi-platform technology based on a proprietary universal compression algorithm that has consistently fielded high Weisman Scores that are not merely competitive but approach the theoretical limit of lossless compression,”  according to

This comedy is as modern as one might imagine, but it wraps its freshman season in good old fashioned stand up and cheer fashion. Thankfully, some things never go out of style.

Anyone who hasn’t been watching would be wise to binge the first seven episodes before enjoying Sunday’s show. If you haven’t seen it, the brief animated opening (featuring a dazzling display of logos from past and present technology companies as they have never been seen before)  is so much fun all by itself that you’ll likely find yourself watching it (rather than scanning through it) over and over again. It’s so rich with details that you will probably see something new every time.    

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